Following a record-setting 52-point night by Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, one-upping backcourt mate Stephen Curry’s 51-point masterpiece from five days prior — Kevin Durant now has the chance at joining elite company by trotting a 50-point wonder of his own.
Curry and Thompson became the first duo to post 50 points in a season more than once, but Durant can make the Warriors trio the first since the Los Angeles Lakers saw Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rudy LaRusso score 50 points during the 1961-62 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
How probable is it that Durant joins Curry, Thompson in the 50-point club?
While conventional wisdom suggests Kevin Durant is one of the most deadly scorers in NBA history, he’s only put up 50 points in a game once during his two-year stint with Golden State, a Valentine’s Day gift of an offensive clinic in a narrow loss to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this year.
Yet something is different this season, as the Warriors have clicked offensively much faster than their previous two seasons with Durant, who has already had three 30-point games and a 41-point outing against the New York Knicks.
The possibility is surely there and the numbers are surely there to back it up, having had four 50-point gems in his career during his stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder, including twice in one season in 2013-14.
How unlikely a feat is to see three players reach the mark in one season?
Even though the NBA has seen plenty of dynamic duos, hardly ever is there a tertiary scorer capable of reaching the 50-point mark. In the case of the Warriors, the one player missing is the most-decorated one in that area throughout his NBA career, having four scoring titles to his name.
Studs like Larry Bird and Kevin McHale reached the 50-point mark in 1984-85, while less-likely candidates like Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson of the Dallas Mavericks reached the feat in 1984-85, as did Dana Barros and Willie Burton of the Philadelphia 76ers in that very same season. Yet neither of them had a player as capable as Durant to reach the mark, especially with a whopping 74 games left in the regular season.
A history lesson
Jerry West was only in his second season in the NBA, but he was already known for his fantastic exploits at the offensive end. While The Logo posted two separate 50-plus-point games during 1961-62 (including a career-high 63-point outing), he was easily outdone by Elgin Baylor, who posted five such games in only 48 appearances for the Lakers that season. West’s career-high 63 points came against the New York Knicks, with Baylor on the shelf for that outing.
Rudy LaRusso was never a potent scorer until late in his career, and he was the one unlikely 50-point scorer of this legendary trio after, posting a brilliant outing in the last game of the 1961-62 season, dropping a career-high 50 points and 19 rebounds during the season finale against the St. Louis Hawks, as neither Baylor nor West suited up for that game.
What has been impressive for this Warriors team is that all three perennial scorers have been in the lineup while going off for these eye-popping performances early in the season.
Durant has the acumen and the potential to do something that hasn’t been done in 47 seasons of NBA basketball, joining league royalty and putting a bow in his legacy with Golden State by etching his name in the record books among some of the best to every play the game.
Judging by his bona fide ability to scorch opponents with a lethal mid-range game and a masterful craft of handling the ball in the open court, it might just be a matter of time before Durant inscribes his name alongside the legends that came before him.